Thursday, February 25, 2016

What kids learn from unsupervised play

[Working-class] Tyrec plays over and over with a relatively stable group of boys. Because the group functions without adult monitoring, he learns how to construct and sustain friendships on his own and how to organize and negotiate. By contrast, [middle-class] Garrett's playmates change frequently, forming and dispersing with each new season and each new organized activity. The only constant is the presence of adults in each setting, ensuring that the players all know the rules, if not one another's names.

Much of the informal play Tyrec and his friends engage in takes place outdoors, at times and in places mainly of their own choosing. The boys often play games they have devised themselves, complete with rules and systems of enforcement. Thus, the organization of Tyrec's daily life provides him with opportunities to develop skills in peer mediation, conflict management, personal responsibility and strategizing.
Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2d ed. "with an update a decade later" (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2011), ch. 4

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